Of Revolutions, Men and Power

You want to have a revolution but when you think of the throes of death that will echo, you take a moment to ponder if these acts of martyrdom are worth it. The raging Arab revolution puts 2011 not just as an appendage in history but as one that will evoke timeless memories. Mubarak and Ben Ali are gone and no other time has fiefdoms remained unsafe as shown in protests over the world. When this revolution started, many people silently asked of Libya with its42 year autocracy: it ended in their thoughts as wishful thinking. It is an assumption that some people are meant to be in power till grave as Houphouet-Boigny, Stalin, Abacha and many more. Many like Kim Jong, Mugabe, Ghaddafi, Museveni despite not monarchs are towing that path till death flickers a red card.

My restless mind wonders what made people of such mind tick. Are they really humans or animals that mutate into bodily forms?  Why would a man in its eighties when should be in deep reflection of its life not allow the nation to find its own soul. Why will they haunt youths down to keep power, kill children without a conscience and why in such acts of horror will he still find loyal people. We thought those belonged to the ancient days but in own very eyes when we pride in civilization, one man will deem it fit to rule at all cost till death makes him a trash. Not only will they rule, they amass obscene wealth and their children have been wired to complete the rest.

I take inspirations from Tatalo Alamu on the Nation last Sunday as he argued on revolutions as an unending cycle. People start revolution hoping but this noble act will mutate in a group or sadly an individual. Let me break it further, Mubarak was a beneficiary of revolutionist instincts of Abdel Gamal Nasser against Egyptian monarchy. I also saw a picture of 27-year old Ghadafi standing beside Nasser, a Arab icon and you would seen through his eyes – complete innocence. The verve you had in Mugabe that ousted colonialists, the Stalin being an apostle of Lenin,  Museveni and his heroic wars against rebels and many more proves that from the days of activism, when these men taste power , they become disasters . They became indispensable to those they owe change. People shed blood to cleanse the rot and pave way from their heroic acts but these citrus trees get power and the orange turns to lemon.

The Rose revolution of Ukraine has always been study in my mind. Yanukovych who was protested against in the Orange revolution in 2004 for election rigging and incompetence is now their elected president.  Such could revolutions become and but when the time is ready, everyone hops the wagon. It is a destination of unknowns and as the dust settles, men begin to take positions and locking the exit door. They recant what they ever represent.  You wonder what changed them so much. Is there something wrong with power and the revolutionary rush to put change it in proper perspective. People died for the change they wanted in Arab nations but only time will tell if their children will have to do this again. If the people power would not be morphed into an individual’s lust for power.

As Nigeria is in its crucial election year, I can only pray for a revolution at the ballot box. Based on our ethnic complexity, the destination of a revolution is scary. It is better we use our voters card as revolution ticket and  continually warn the ruling party to ground its rigging machinery. If we protect our votes, then we have started a revolution whose destination we are sure of and we can take a turn in the next four years.

The Social (Revolution) Network

Revolutions don’t just happen in a flick. Revolution occurs when the anger of the pain of persons aggregate and turn to fiery passion to disrespect the status quo even at the daggers of death. There were times it came with relentless planning, hierarchy and organizational structures but nowadays all we have are splinters of nodes scattered across the web. In all revolution, the brakes are thrown out of the window and everyone is in for a drive into a destination of unknowns. The cause and desired change is known but what will happen or the possible afterwards is left to factors of unknowns.

When the social network was being developed, all Zuckerberg and friends wanted were people who could create unlimited connections and share thoughts, memories, places, events and many more. Little had the inventors in the halls of Harvard did understand an undertone of social inequality and huge oppression that lies under the societal fabric. The frame of autocratic regimes was sagging but no one in midst of effective state oppression can aggregate people to challenge some political authority. Now interactions across the web plotted on the social graph are the ignitions restarting global political orders. It is a buzzing movement that might topple kingdoms and fiefdom and destroy the myth around autocrats. Such revolutions will hasten the works of death- the only ageless change agent that toppled sit-tight leaders with ease. In the destination of unknowns, Ben Ali of Tunisia had the first dose and for the likes of 82 year old Mubarak, Yemenis and possibly Libyans and Syrians, the new wave is sweeping by the virtual connect.

Malcolm Gladwell once wrote that the revolution will not be televised neither will be tweeted.  The best-selling author clearly debunked the impact of social media tools in driving systemic social change, comparing their uncoordinated connections to the organizational strategies of the 1960s civil rights movement.  He concludes that social media promote social ‘weak ties’  and cannot motivate people to take risks, such as imprisonment or attack, for social change. Now with Egypt and Tunisia, the world has it right that people with wider connections online can realign their interest for societal change. Malcolm will be wrong because revolutions have never been founded by neighbours or families but people who see change through the same prism.  revolutions are about people and since the social network unlike telephone and newsprints are the latest tools of seamless communications, it will continually aid actions of social change.

It’s a web founded on openness and expression across borders and to close down the digital space by despots to isolate the activists is more threatening. The wave of the revolution is already in flames in people hearts and such online access denial makes the fire more intense. It’s a new check on the world that as more people find expression online, they will find it easier to spur mass actions and challenge the status quo.

For Africa and Arabs, it’s time to rethink governance and succession strategy. A continent can’t continue with likes of Mubarak (30 years), Omar El-Bashir (21 years), Museveni (25 years), Mugabe (31 years) and many examples of the past. It might be better to box people in a wall without global online interactions and keep them in bondage possibly for ever but as loose opportunities of social connect begin; it might be a new yardstick of governance and accountability. Beyond sit tight leaders, there will also be revolt against establishment and political caucuses in the future. That’s why the likes of PDP –acclaimed election riggers- in Nigeria who live 50 year reign fantasy have to rethink and reform before mass action activated by digital evangelists.  Revolutions are the wake from slumber or inaction, docility to energetic change in the height of gross inequality. It is newly led by rookie protesters against people and establishments who aim to extinguish the essence of life.

Facebook or Twitter may soon be winners of Nobel Peace Prize, don’t doubt it. The reason- while it all started in people hearts without a structure, strategy or clear leader but defined sense of change, the social network was the totemic platform.